Fairbanks, Alaska -- - Freshman Matt DeBlouw snapped a 12-game scoring drought with his biggest goal of the season, an overtime beauty which beat Alaska, 2-1, in the first game of the CCHA First-Round series in Fairbanks on Friday night. The win gave MSU (12-22-3) a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series, which will continue on Saturday evening at the Carlson Center.
DeBlouw's game-winner came at 3:02 of the overtime period. Late in his shift, a dog-tired Matt Berry got to a loose puck on the left side, and chipped it out of the zone for Ryan Keller. Keller was able to chip it away from the Alaska player on the wall, and sent it to DeBlouw, who carried it into the zone. Three defenders across the top of the high slot tried to stop the rookie centerman, but he kept it on his forehand, moved from the top of the right circle to the top of the left, and put a nifty spin-shot on net, which beat Keeney low, glove-side for the game-winner.
It was DeBlouw's first goal since a Jan. 18 game at Ferris State.
The home team outshot the Spartans by a 35-15 margin, but junior goaltender Will Yanakeff was, for the third time in as many games between the teams, the difference-maker. Yanakeff, who made 37 and 39 saves in a series split when MSU played the Nanooks at the Carlson Center two weeks ago, did a nice job controlling rebounds and smothering the puck on flurries in front of his net. His 34 saves gave MSU its first CCHA Tournament victory since March 14, 2008 - game one of a home quarterfinal series against Northern Michigan. (The Wildcats rebounded from that 5-1 game one loss to take the series in three games, winning the next two by 2-1 and 3-2 (OT) scores).
The Spartans jumped on the board just 27 seconds into the game. John Draeger sent a pass across the inside of the blue line to RJ Boyd, who hit Tanner Sorenson coming off the left wall. Sorenson skated in to the top of the left circle and ripped a shot that beat John Keeney glove-side. It was his 11th marker of the season.
The home team tied the game at 15:44. As Keeney raced to the bench on a delayed MSU penalty, a sixth skater joined the rush. Colton Beck sent a cross-slot pass for Cody Kunyk, and Kunyk's off-balance shot beat Yanakeff, who was moving right-to-left across the crease.
On the ensuing power play - Sorenson headed to the box for hooking - the Spartans had a couple of nice shorthanded chances. Lee Reimer's shot on the doorstep was stoned by Keeney, and a minute later, Michael Ferrantino's shot was just wide left.
For the third straight game between the teams, the Nanooks controlled the battle of shots on net, but Yanakeff was once again up to the task, turning away shot after shot and smothering the puck when the flurries of action came in front of his net. The most dangerous of all Nanook chances late in the game came with under five minutes remaining, as a loose puck squirted out to the right side for Tyler Morley, but Morley couldn't get it past Yanakeff, and play rushed the other way. Greg Wolfe had a sharp-angle shot that skittered through the crease on the ensuing shift, but it went harmlessly into the corner. MSU had a nice sequence during the final minute of play in their offensive zone, but could not find the back of the net, sending the teams back to the locker room prior to a fourth period.
MSU will look to close out the series in two games when the teams meet on Saturday night in Fairbanks - gametime is 11 p.m. eastern. If necessary, game three would be held on Sunday night at 11 p.m. eastern.